3 Simple Behaviors to Prevent Chronic Disabilities

By John D Day MD

According to the World Health Organization, the average American is disabled with chronic illnesses by age 68. Given that the average life expectancy in the United States is 78, that means that we can look forward to being disabled with chronic illnesses the last 10 years of our life!  If the average age of retirement is 65 then that means there are just three “golden years” for the typical American. How depressing!​

073013 PreventChronicDis WEB

When I meet with patients each day, they tell me disabilities and having the body break down are just part of “growing old”. Does it really have to be this way? Have we come to accept physical disabilities as part of the “normal” aging process? Can we live healthy and free from our bodies breaking down until our last day on this Earth?

To help answer this question, there was a fascinating study published this past week in the prestigious British Medical Journal. This study looked at 4,000 healthy French people who were all at least 65 years old when the study started. The researches then followed these 4,000 people for the next 12 years to see who would develop physical disabilities.

What they found was really quite interesting, if you could just adopt three simple healthy behaviors you could cut your risk of being disabled in half.

The three behaviors to prevent disability identified in this study are as follows:

  1. Stay physically active each day
  2. Have a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  3. Don’t smoke

While this seems incredibly simple to do, it is amazing that most Americans cannot seem to adopt these three simple behaviors.

The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of at least moderate physical activity five days a week and a diet that consists of at least nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

What do you think? Is it hard to stay physically active each day, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and avoid smoking? 

Reference: http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f4240

 ​